All foster carers – especially have if they’ve been doing it for a while know certain activities have a lot of potential to ‘oil the wheels’ – making a child feel comfortable and at home. These blog series are simple cameos offering a personal glimpse into foster carers everyday world of fostering.
Now foster carer Charlie finds mileage in a puncture…
I’ve been a foster carer for well over ten years now. One of the best things about it is – as many foster carers will say – it makes you realise how fortunate you are. My name’s Charlie and my wife is Lizzie. We’ve had many youngsters living with us over the years. And we remember them all – some more than others, only because they stayed longer. But all the kids we’ve fostered have been special – just in different ways. Each one; just like Lizzie says, kinda teaches you something new about yourself. She knows all about that – and so much more besides since we’ve been fostering. Being a foster carers has been a shared journey. And we’re enjoying it as much now as the first time we had our first placement: nerve-wracking that was – It’s a kinda baptism of fire. Same for all foster carers, I’m sure.
Fostering children is an amazing thing to do. Our friends have always been interested – some have helped. Especially on Bar-B-Q days. We have loads of those when the weathers good. That’s been a big help – having a load of friends around. The agency has always said that having a good network can make a big, big difference at times for a hard-pressed foster carer. Just received another emergency placement – started that way but Raj has been with us three weeks now. Could be that it turns into long term stay. He’s a nice, quiet mannered, ten-year-old Indian boy. Opened up a bit now. Lizzie had some good support right from the off from Debbie his social worker. She provided us with a whole list of his favourite meals – after the first few days when he came out of his shell, he even helped to make them. So that’s sorted in the kitchen and he’s settling in.
One of the hardest things can be to get a conversation going. Kids are often shy. And let’s be honest, a lot of them are pretty lost and upset when they are plonked down in a strange house with people they have never met. Often it’s hard to find something to chat about. Many times they don’t want to. That’s okay – but it can’t go on. Especially as a foster carer has to be able to help, if needed, with schoolwork. That’s something the agency really stress. Foster caring is about being interested. If a youngster thinks you’re genuinely interested in them, it can make all the difference in the world to them.
In our ten years plus fostering, we’ve picked up a few things that really help spark up a good chit-chat. Usually depends on the child’s age, but if it’s a ten-year-old boy you can be pretty sure of one thing, he’ll be interested in bicycles…
It’s a warm Saturday and I’ve got the bike we keep in the shed out on the patio. Seen a lot of service over recent years.
“Raj, you ready” I call out.
After a while, I hear a muffled “Yes – coming”. A face appears at the open sliding door that leads onto the patio.
I say: “I’ve got the bike out – needs a bit of a clean.”
“Will I be able to ride it straightaway/” Raj said this after a long pause whilst he gave the bike the once over.
“Can’t see why not”. I replied.
Lizzie and I had been thinking Raj had been a bit quiet. Well behaved, for sure, but as all foster carers know, if a kid is too quiet it can be a sign of other things not being right. In our experience, you need to get through reasonably quickly, so a youngster doesn’t get the sense they are still isolated. That can be when the trouble starts – when they miss their family. Too much time in their heads to brood.
“Could you wheel it across the patio Raj”.
Raj nodded. And then –
“Oh no – it’s punctured”
“No – that’s a shame,” I said.
I saw his face fall.
“Have you ever mended a puncture before – the old fashioned way I mean?”
Raj looked at me. His face looked confused.
“The only bike I ever had was when I was small and it had solid tyres”.
“Well, I cut the grass so you could ride the bike – so the old fashioned way it is”.
“What’s the old fashioned way?” he said.
I could see I had his interest. Especially when I said we were going to need a bowl of water and asked him how good he was at spotting bubbles?”
Mending a puncture, as every Dad knows is completely engrossing. Lizzie allowed several spoons for us to lever the tyre from the now upside down bicycle,
“They’re only on loan, mind, I expect them to be washed up after you’ve used them.” She said with a broad grin.
It took about forty minutes to get the puncture mended. And of course, a great opportunity for continuous chit-chat all the while. Raj opened up – couldn’t help it. First of all, removing an inner tube is fiddly – two pairs of hands are definitely a help. Then feeding an inner tube through a bowl of water and spotting bubbles from the puncture can also be a fiddly job. Bottom line – you have to cooperate – especially if one of you wants to go hurtling around the lawn. And that all means plenty of communication. It also means plenty of lemonade it’s a hot morning.
Puncture fixed. Tap with the spanner to get the eat the right height:
“That okay Raj?”
“Fine”, was all he said as he careered across the lawn. Our back garden is long and slopes down from the end so you can get a good head of steam up on a bike. And Raj had a great morning going up and down. Lizzie and I enjoyed a cup of tea together calling out encouragement. When Raj finally stopped for a break he sat beside us and started up a conversation about how we could all repaint the bike in the afternoon…
Names changed to protect privacy
All kids should be encouraged to lead active lives. Cycling is a great form of exercise – but being safe is important. Find out more about this – https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/cycletraining
Charlie and Lizzie are experienced foster carers who have made a huge difference in the lives of the many children they have taken into their home. Put simply, we need many more people to provide the kind of loving and dedicated care they offer vulnerable children. At the moment, there is a need for an additional 8,600 foster families in the country.
We work extremely hard to place our youngsters in foster homes reflecting their own background and cultural heritage. This means we are always looking for potential foster carers drawn from all the diverse communities in the UK. Rainbow is now looking fro applicants in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Hampshire.
Contact us for an exploratory chat on 020 8427 3355 or our National Line – 0330 311 2845. There is no pressure or obligation.
All our Rainbow foster carers receive a FREE subscription to FosterTalk magazine. This contains a wealth of interesting information about fostering.
Please consider visit these pages of ours for more useful information: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/